30 Great Places: North Umpqua

2017 AUG 22: A Clean Water Rule rally in downtown Denver, CO.

Region: Pacific Northwest
Activities: Fishing
Species: Steelhead

Where: The North Umpqua flows 110 miles from its headwaters in the Cascade Mountains (near Crater Lake National Park) to its confluence with the mainstem Umpqua west of Roseburg, in southwest Oregon. Of particular interest is the river’s fly-fishing-only water, beginning near Rock Creek and continuing 31 miles upstream.

Marked by astounding clarity and beauty, the North Umpqua is considered one of the most challenging – and satisfying – steelhead rivers in the world. It’s also marked by an amazing degree of civility.

“I’ve fished with people from around the world, and they’re always stunned by the etiquette here,” said Dean Finnerty, who’s guided the river for decades and now serves as Southwest Oregon field organizer for Trout Unlimited. “When you park in a pull-out and walk into a run, that place is yours until you leave. This ‘rule’ is almost universally observed. You never have to share water, an amazing thing on public lands. I also treasure the river for its great history. These waters have been plied by presidents and celebrities for more than 80 years. It’s the focal point for steelheaders who want to test their mettle.”

During your visit, you might also encounter two important elements of that history along the river: Frank and Jeanne Moore. The Moores started the famed Steamboat Inn in the 50s, and have worked diligently for many decades to protect both the river’s steelhead and its water quality.

Finnerty also prizes the North Umpqua’s steelhead for their surface proclivities.

“During the summer, I fish only floating lines and skaters. Even if the fish don’t take the skater, it lets you identify a ‘player,’ and come back with small wet fly to close the deal.”

Local Knowledge: Finnerty suggests focusing on a few spots. “When I first started guiding out there, Frank taught me 130 named pools. It’s easy to take a shotgun approach, but I think targeting your efforts on runs that you know really well is more productive. You may not always get your favorite spot; if someone’s there, just move on to your second and third. During the middle of the day, I always try to scout out new spots.”

TU Initiatives: With the support of Wild Salmon Center, Pacific Rivers Council and Trout Unlimited, Oregon’s Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have introduced legislation calling for the creation of the “Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area.” Congressman Peter DeFazio, who represents Oregon’s 4th District and is a friend of the Moores, introduced a house version of the bill, which will safeguard more than 100,000 acres of habitat on the North Umpqua. Dean Finnerty and TU are working diligently to secure bi-partisan support to help ensure the bill’s passage.

Make a Difference: We depend upon the generous financial support of our 300,000 members and supporters to protect places like the North Umpqua watershed. Please give today to keep America’s rivers and streams cold, clean and fishable.30 Great American PlacesDonate today

By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…